The Worthington 250 Interviews, Part Nine: Brad Fisk, singer and icon of Corners Grocery

Brad Fisk at the meat counter of Corners Grocery, Worthington.

Note: On July 30, 2021, at the age of 92, Bradford Porter Fisk passed away surrounded by his family in the home he built 69 years before. With his wife, Judy, Brad Fisk owned and ran the Corners Grocery for 25 years. He also served as president of the Worthington Elementary School PTO, president of the Gateway Regional Athletic Booster Club, president of the Worthington Golf Club, and board of trustees member and deacon at Worthington’s First Congregational Church, where his singing talents were renowned.

The following transcript is from a series of interviews conducted by Harold Anderson of Valley Eye Radio during Worthington’s 250th anniversary celebrations, which took place from June 29 to July 3, 2018. Valley Eye Radio, based in the Pioneer Valley, provides local news, interviews and other content to those with vision loss or other disabilities.

Harold Anderson: Brad, are you a lifelong resident of Worthington?

Brad Fisk: Actually I was born and raised in Huntington. I’ve been around Worthington since the late ’40s, probably. My home is not in Worthington, either – it’s just over the line in Middlefield. But my connections are all in Worthington. I’m right on the middle branch of the Westfield River there.

I was in the building business with a partner of mine who would live next door for 25 years. And he was older and he retired. Then the owner of the [Corners Grocery] store here, Mr. Packard, wanted to sell, and he called me up and he said, “What are you gonna do?” And I said, “We’ll probably keep building.” He said he’s looking for somebody to come in for two or three months and learn the business and see if they wanted to buy it. At first I didn’t think much about it, but then I said, “Why not try it?” That was 1970, and I finally decided I’d give it a go. And I bought it in early 1971.

Brad and Judy Fisk outside the Corners Grocery.

That’s when there were more locally employed people in town. There were big Albert farms that raised potatoes, and they had several employees. But we had a full-service store there. And one of the enjoyable parts, in my way of thinking, is once we got established, I started a little coffee klatch in the back room. The guys used to come in on their way to work, and there would be ten or a dozen guys in there, all telling stories and telling what was going on in town.

Some of the characters in town, like Emerson Davis, he was in Worthington when I got here. He seemed like he’d been here forever. He never had a car – he actually lived in this building [Town Hall], he took care of it. They had a table and he’d sleep on that.

HA: Really?

BF: Really eccentric, intelligent guy. He could raise vegetables, make maple syrup, and thought everything was his to do with the way he wanted to do it. He actually had an old truck, and if he got tired driving, he’d just stop. He’d go to sleep, sometimes in the road.

HA: He wouldn’t pull off?

Robert Cudworth (1902-1985).

BF: Yeah. People would stop and see if he’s alright. He said it’s none of their business whether I’m sleeping or whether I’m dead. You get people like that you remember forever. Another was Robert Cudworth. He was another character that didn’t really go by the book. He came in one day in July, very hot. I said, “Robert, what have you been doing?” He said, “I’ve been burning brush.” And I said, “Don’t you have to have a permit to burn brush when it’s dry?” He said, “I don’t need a permit. God gave me a permit 75 years ago.” Those are the people you remember most.

As time went on, the store had the post office attached. That’s one of the reasons the guy that owned it had to sell, or else give up his postmaster’s job. The Postal Service told him that he could not do both. They’d keep a separate unit for the post office, which was attached. So he decided to sell and just do the post office. Then we took on the lease with that. That helped with our income, actually, to keep things going.

Brad Fisk at the meat counter of Corners Grocery.

We had a full-service store. It was good meat and had a liquor license, it had gas pumps. And we made it go 25 years. Everybody had to change with the times because it became more or less a bedroom community. People would be out of town, then shop in town and come in. They liked to buy the meat we had, and beer and wine were good sellers. So we managed to keep going, and in 1995 we sold and retired from that.

Everything we did was in Worthington. Middlefield wasn’t easy to get to. So we came to church here and took part in a lot of the things that were happening in Worthington. That made us our living and got our kids through school, which was testing sometimes.

HA: So what do you like most about Worthington?

BF: The people. They believe in being neighborly and helping people out. One of the biggest boosts we got in the summer were wealthier people who would go to Florida for the winter. They’d come back, and they didn’t like shopping at big stores. They liked shopping at our stores.

I can remember [former Secretary of State] George Shultz, who has a house in Cummington. He’d come over here to play golf with some of the local guys. I always got a kick out of it, because he’d come over with his whole entourage of state police and Secret Service and the dogs to sniff out the explosives around the clubhouse. Then later in the day his wife would drive over on her own to shop. No security there, just all alone. Those are the kind of people that really keep you going. He used to order a huge sirloin, two-and-three-quarter inches thick. He called from Washington to order it when he was going to be here. I’d always get it ready for him. One time in particular he says, “I want your usual good steak, because I’m going to feed the President.” So that was a kick in the pants, ’cause it makes you feel good.

HA: The President came here?

BF: No, he took it to Washington.

HA: Never found out whether the President enjoyed the steak?

BF: I’ve got the book that Reagan wrote with all his hand notes in it from every day. And he told about that he was going to Shultz’s house, and he cooked a huge steak in an odd way. I asked him how he cooked it, and he said, “I get a fire in the fireplace and get the coals all burned on so they’re red hot.” And he said, “I salt it both sides, and I throw it in the coals.” Two minutes on each side. Always said it came out good.

Diary entry of President Ronald Reagan, June 3, 1983.

So that’s some of the experiences we’ve had, and we’re still here. We still consider ourselves Worthington people because we go to church here and all our friends are here. My wife worked in the store for a while after we sold it as a clerk, and everybody loved her. She’s just so nice to everybody. I was always known as Judy’s husband.

HA: So now that you’re retired, what kind of activities do you get involved in around here?

BF: When I first retired there were people in town, especially elderly people that might be widows or widowers, looking for people to do some carpentry work or some repair work on their houses, nothing big. So I took on some of those and it got to be a full-time job.

HA: Uh-oh. There went the retirement.

BF: I didn’t charge a lot of money for doing them. These are people that didn’t have a big enough job so a contractor wanted to come in. So I did a lot of those.

Brad Fisk at the vocals.

I sound like I’m bragging, but one of the things I do is sing. Years ago I sang at some of the bigger churches where they pay a quartet to sing. I did that for several years until the store kept me busy, then I stopped and I just sang at this church. It’s one of the things that takes your mind off other things and I enjoy doing that.

HA: So are you in your church choir?

BF: Yes, we had a choir. Right now, the choir is rather thin because people change. The organist and choir director we had moved away, and the new organist we hired didn’t want to direct the choir. I solo still, but I’m almost 89 years old, and I don’t think that’s going to last very long.

HA: So how do you think Worthington’s changed over the years?

BF: Well, we had a man in town named Henry Snyder that had a lot of connections. He was a selectman in town. In those days he was also the Chief of Police and he was the Board of Health.

HA: Many hats.

BF: And those were the days things were easier. Now you can’t hold a meeting without some problems. He left the town quite a big sum of money for different organizations, which was nice. But most of the people that I knew when I worked here up until 1995 – the town has changed. A lot of people I don’t know.

Bradford Porter Fisk.

HA: Any other memories you’d like to mention about your time here in Worthington?

BF: Years ago we used to put on shows, here in the Town Hall. Musical stuff. But I think just generally being part of Worthington is good. It’s a beautiful town. People wonder about roads in the winter, but they’re always taken good care of. And some of the characters you really remember. I don’t know what more to tell you, just that it’s a great place to live – good people and nice town.

Posted August 13, 2021.

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